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CHICAGO (CBS) – Crime is up on the borders of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, and Tuesday, campus police told students and staff that it is time to put the cell phones and iPods away and pay attention to what’s going on around them.
UIC Police report only 11 robberies and 10 burglaries on campus since January, and both police and university officials said they consider the campus to be safe.
But in the Chicago Police Department’s Monroe District, which surrounds the campus, there have been 165 robberies and 320 burglaries through the end of September. Both statistics are big increases and buck the citywide trend.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
UIC Police Officer Daniel Esquilin said that many such thefts are crimes of opportunity and said that the victims are either listening to their iPods, or reading or writing e-mail or text messages and are paying little attention to what’s happening around them.
In short, technology can benefit those seeking to commit crimes of opportunity.
“They have a habit of pulling down their heads, looking at their cell phones and checking text messages, and they’re not looking at who’s walking past them, who’s next to them and who’s around them,” Esquilin said, urging UIC students and staff “to use their heads.”
Esquilin said colder weather might put the damper on such random smash-and-grab crimes, but he also said it often means an increase in burglaries.
The UIC campus has hundreds of emergency telephones and panic buttons, but that is not the case off-campus.
Esquilin urged victims to get a good look at the attacker’s face, then note what he’s wearing, and said to call police first.
UIC Police Officer Craig Moran said calling immediately often helps police to capture the thief and recover what has been stolen within a matter of minutes.
Both officers also urged students and staff to copy down the serial numbers of all the electronics they own. He said it’s the only foolproof way to tell something is yours once it has been recovered.